John Edgar Hoover, 1895 - 1972

portrait of J. Edgar Hoover
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Born: 1 January 1895, Washington City
Died: 2 May 1972, Washington City

Hoover's career at the Justice Department began during World War I after he earned his law degrees from George Washington University. He was soon promoted to head the Enemy Aliens Registration Section, and in August 1919 became head of the new General Intelligence Division of the Bureau of Investigation. After his promotion to deputy head of the Bureau of Investigation, his boss, William J. Burns, was implicated in the Teapot Dome scandal. President Calvin Coolidge appointed Hoover to take Burns' place in 1924.

Hoover became a national hero during the 1930s as he led the Bureau in hunting down a series of high-profile, violent bank robbers such as John Dillinger, although at that time he denied the existence of the Mafia. The Bureau's powers were expanded and it became the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1935, with Hoover as Director. By the 1940s, Hoover became increasingly concerned about subversives, and formed the Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) in 1956 to get information on those he considered enemies of the nation, such as Martin Luther King, Jr., the Ku Klux Klan, the Black Panthers, and the Communist Party.

He was known for his vendettas, his capricious management style, his paranoia, and his willingness to use any means, including blackmail, illegal wiretaps, burglary, and planted evidence, to maintain power and to bring down his enemies. Rumors have circulated about cross-dressing and a long homosexual relationship with Clyde Tolson, his deputy and heir. Despite the fact that Presidents Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson all considered dismissing him as Director of the FBI, Hoover managed to retain his position and influence until his death at home from a heart attack.

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